Coming into the season, Valtteri Filppula was going to be a key veteran piece for this young Flyers team. He would be an even bigger help for the Flyers young rookie center, Nolan Patrick.
Filppula is a veteran of 13 NHL seasons and has played for 3 different teams, Detroit, Tampa, and currently Philadelphia. During his time in the NHL, Filppula has played in many different roles.
In his early years in Detroit, Filppula was the Red Wings 2nd line center. He performed extremely well in that role, which is why Tampa signed him in 2013 to play behind Steven Stamkos.
With Tampa, Filppula’s game changed. After an impressive first 2 seasons with Tampa, Filppula lost his 2nd line role to Tampa’s triplet line, centered by Tyler Johnson. Filppula’s new role was a 3rd line defensive center. In this role, Filppula’s numbers dropped off. This led, a year later, to a trade to Philadelphia after becoming expandable.
Now, in his 1st full season with Philadelphia and the final year of his contract, Filppula had a good start to his season. He scored 8 goals and 8 assists in his first 35 games. However, over the last 16 games, Filppula has struggled. In his last 16 games, Filppula has 2 goals and 4 assists. This has led to a demotion from his 2nd line spot to now the 4th line.
The demotion is not just because he has been struggling. But, its a combination of his struggles and the recent strong play of both Nolan Patrick and Scott Laughton. Both younger players and well deserving of a move of the lineup for both.
Filppula, a 34 year old free agent at seasons end, doesn’t deserve the 4th line role with the Flyers. Therefore, is his days as the Flyers 4th line center numbered?
In recent years, the answer to that question would be no. Especially since Filppula carries a $5,000,000 cap hit.
However, Filppula brings more than just a high price tag to a team. He brings veteran leadership and a long track record of playoff history and success.
What Filppula brings to a Stanley Cup contender is value and experience. Filppula has played in 152 playoff games adding 24 goals and 55 assists. Plus a Stanley Cup win in 2008 with Detroit.
If Filppula is dealt to a contender, his role would be a role playing 3rd line center. With his experience and success, that is not a bad 3rd line center to have to add to an already strong playoff team.
How do you move him?
Filppula carries a pretty heavy price tag for a contender who is close to the cap limit already. However, this is not the first time GM Ron Hextall has dealt away a high price tag.
In the past, Hextall has attached another piece to the high price tag and gotten pretty good value back. In 2016, Hextall attached Vincent Lecavalier to Luke Schenn and got in return Jordan Weal and a 3rd round pick (Carsen Twarynski). And, who could forget the Chris Pronger trade. In 2014, Pronger’s contract was sent along with Nick Grossmann and got in return Sam Gagner and a 4th round pick, later used to trade up to draft Isaac Ratcliffe.
Therefore, this is something GM Ron Hextall has done in the past before. But, the Flyers can help too with any trade by holding back up to 50% of Filppula cap hit. In this case, Filppula would only count for $2,500,000 against the cap for the team trading for him. Not bad for a veteran of 152 career playoff games.
However, a team is bringing a guy like Filppula in for one reason. The reason being Filppula can step in right away into any position needed. This is known as a player, in the twilight of his career, taking a lesser role to get one more opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. Exactly what Filppula would be doing.
But, what could the Flyers get back? Well, I see this working in one of two ways.
First, Hextall goes the way of old and attaches him to another player. Insert Brandon Manning. Manning is a 4-year NHL veteran who is primarily a 3rd pairing / extra defenseman. However, Manning brings tremendous value being just a $975,000 cap hit. Extremely low for a veteran 3rd pairing guy or a depth defenseman for a long playoff run.
If this is the route, except a very similar return to the Lecavalier and Schenn trade. A “B/C” quality prospect and a mid-round pick. This is the route I would take to open up a spot for a Flyers rookie defenseman to get regular playing time over the final quarter of the season.
Second, Hextall retains half of his salary to boost the return. If Hextall were to hold back 50% of Filppula’s, he could get a similar return to the previous deal. But, maybe just a tad better. A return of an “B” quality prospect and a mid-round pick. Even with the better return, I would rather open a roster spot for Sanheim or Morin than leave them with the Phantoms for the rest of the year.
But, who then replaces Filppula?
If the Flyers move Filppula, it opens up a spot for Flyers prospect Mike Vecchione. Vecchione, who started the year off extremely hot with the Phantoms, has cooled down a bit. However, he has picked it up lately recording a point in his last 5 games.
Vecchione would slot perfectly in the Flyers 4th line along side Taylor Leier and one of Jori Lehtera and Dale Weise.
However, before you go talking about trading your team away, you have to decide something first. Are the Flyers going to be buyers or sellers at the deadline? The Flyers will have to decide just that before any move is made.
However, at this point, I still see them adding something at the deadline. But, That could all change in a week or two.
Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports